Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1968. Universal Pictures, The Malpaso Company. Story by Herman Miller, Screenplay by Herman Miller, Dean Riesner, Howard Rodman. Cinematography by Bud Thackery. Produced by Don Siegel. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Production Design by Alexander Golitzen, Robert MacKichan. Costume Design by Helen Colvig. Film Editing by Sam E. Waxman.
Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel work together for the first time and hit paydirt from the word go. Eastwood is terrific as an Arizona police officer who is sent to New York City to collect a prisoner who is wanted in his home state on a criminal charge, but when he arrives in the Big Apple he finds nothing but barriers to his goal. When he’s not being condescended to for his cowboy hat he’s being given the runaround by local police chief Lee J. Cobb: the prisoner, it seems, cannot be transferred easily, he is locked in a mental asylum and Eastwood is not permitted to move him until he jumps through the right hoops and clears enough red tape. Frustrated and impatient, our hero takes the matter into his own hands and it backfires on him, setting the wanted man free and leaving Eastwood vulnerable to the Manhattan underworld, whose methods he doesn’t understand and whose rules he does not know. Eastwood’s macho persona always has a sense of self-aware burlesque that makes it as funny as it is imposing, a natural stardom he possessed from very early in his career that would reach its first of many peaks with the more polished version of this movie, 1971’s Dirty Harry. The supporting cast includes future sitcom star Susan Clark as a police psychologist who can’t stand this hunky man’s tendency to brutality, while Siegel has as much a sense for glamorous Hollywood violence as he does for the gritty, amoral setting that puts the protagonist into some convincingly dicey situations. The retro throwback of flower-power parties and passenger helicopters certainly adds an extra layer of pleasure to the experience.